Last month, the ACLU Conference brought together ACLU members and activists alike for learning, mobilization, and inspiration. The event was an opportunity for members from around the country, including South Dakota, to exchange ideas, to celebrate the extraordinary history of the ACLU, and to look forward to the challenges ahead.

With a renewed and fortified spirit, Micci Abbott of Vermilion shares what she learned from the conference.

“If we try to fight in every revolution in the world, we never stop. Where do we draw the line?” 
–Cabinet Battle #2, Hamilton: An American Musical

We’re living through an era in which disappointment and heartbreak have become the ambiance of our nation. Equally as disheartening, this is a time in which being vocal about the injustices we witness feels like nothing more than adding to the noise. Outrage is overdone, encouragement feels deceptive, and solidarity looks like a temporary fix.

Despite this, and frequently because of it, many of us continue to fight the good fight. The exhausting predicament we face is in the sheer number of fights. This multitude was demonstrated in the wide range of available sessions at the 2018 ACLU Conference. Topics included mass incarceration, indigenous justice, the women’s movement, and LGBTQIA+ inclusion. Each of these topics is paired with a viciously important battle. Can we the people conceivably fight in each one? The short answer: yes.

As Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood, stated while accepting the ACLU Lifetime Achievement Award, “As activists, as organizers, as troublemakers, these are the days we’ve been training for all of our lives.”

Truly, these are the days – and the fights – we’ve been training for. The ACLU conference was an invaluable opportunity to learn more about the resources and strategies being utilized across the country by the people fighting alongside us. As with the other speakers and honorees, Cecile Richards’ speech was informative and inspirational, in a time when information and inspiration are exactly what we need. The American Civil Liberties Union exists as a radiant light in these dark times, sharing and defending information when others will not. That being said, the 2018 ACLU Conference was particularly notable for its inspiration. 

Bearing witness to people who are just as horrified and hard-working as you are is completely regenerative. Every moment of the ACLU Conference was a new demonstration of togetherness and unity. Seeing these displays of strength across all lines corroborated exactly what Cecile Richards outlined in her speech: We know what we’re doing. We know that the only way to fight back is to fight back. The conference educated about ways to do so, but also clearly demonstrated the reason why we do: our community. We fight the good fight(s) because it’s what is right, but we also do it for each other. We’ve trained together, fought together, and will win together. 


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